Fulton County’s Board of Registration and Elections voted unanimously on Thursday to propose closing six polling places, consolidating them with other existing voting locations. All of them are in predominantly black neighborhoods in South Atlanta.
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The board says most people in these polling places vote early anyway and don’t frequent the locations often enough to justify keeping them open.
But several voting rights advocacy groups disagree and say this change disproportionately affects black voters.
Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, says her organization analyzed data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s website and concluded these locations are heavily trafficked.
“If people are used to voting at a particular location and then that location is changed, we could see a drop in turnout. And it’s not clear to us what data they’re using to justify these closures,” Ufot says.
The New Georgia Project signed a letter to the board along with other nonprofits, including the Washington-based group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“They were selected when it appeared to us that each of those had very robust turnout in the last few years. And the alleged reason for closing and moving precincts here was because of the reduced turnout,” says Julie Houk, senior special counsel in the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project.
Fulton County’s elections office isn’t saying how it determined the turnout at the six precincts is low. It didn’t respond to WABE’s interview request before deadline.
But any permanent changes to voting locations have to get the approval of the county commission, which meets on Aug. 16. Ufot says, from now until then, her group will try to talk with commissioners about this change.